In two weeks, the Louisiana capital has seen the a black man shot to death by white police and night after night of protests, followed by a fatal attack on three officers by a gunman who appeared to be targeting the badge.

Now Baton Rouge is a town marked by memorials — flowers, balloons and stuffed animals with notes of condolences.

The city of 229,000 is known for its college football team and its political scene. But this summer, it has been churning through tension and grief and taking a leading role in a national debate.

Sterling Pierce is an appliance store worker. He struggles to make sense of recent events. Pierce was friends with the black man shot by police. He also knew one of the slain officers.